The Downy Emerald Dragonfly (a male is pictured above) is one of three similar species that are still found in Britain, the other two being Somatochlora metallica, the Brilliant Emerald, and Somatochlora arctica, the Northern Emerald.
When mature, this dragonfly is readily distinguished by its bright green eyes, very downy green thorax and dark greenish-bronze abdomen. The male and female are similar in appearance and colouring, but the female has a fatter abdomen while the male has a slightly waisted and club-shaped abdomen. Typical wingspan is 6.8cm and the overall length about 4.8cm.
he Downy Emerald occurs in scattered populations throughout England, Scotland and Wales, but only in the southeast of England is it at all common. There it is still able to find plenty of the kind of habitat it needs: stillwater with mature deciduous trees nearby. On the mainland of Europe the Downy Emerald occurs in all central and most northern countries, its range extending from western France across into Asia, although in southern European countries the Downy Emerald is restricted to the cooler mountainous areas.
This fast-flying dragonfly favours canals, ponds and lakes with emergent vegetation.
In Britain this dragonfly can be seen on the wing from late April or early May until the end of July and sometimes as late as mid August. The males patrol along waterside margins until they find and seize a female with which to mate, and then the females deposit their eggs onto the surface of the water in weedy margins.
After emerging from their eggs, the larvae or nymphs (sometimes referred to as naiads) of the Downy Emerald live in the water for three years before emerging on plant stems; there they shed their final nymphal skin or shuck (called an exuvia), dry their wings and then take flight. Winged adults feed on smaller insects and can live for about up to two months.
This page includes pictures kindly contributed by James Wainscoat.
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